Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 55 - Reflections on a wedding industry "in love"... with my money!

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Time for a mini-update on my wedding planning. See below for a spattering of musings about the injustices of the wedding industry, and my first wedding-industry-related "plug."  

Spattering of musings:
Aside from those mythical impromptu Vegas events, most weddings require at least some planning.  Indeed, according to Rebecca Mead, author of One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Weddingthere's a $161-billion wedding industry that survives - nay, thrives - on the constant one-up-womanship of brides (and mothers-of-the-brides) who are determined to not embarrass themselves with a sub-par event.  As much as we like to think of weddings as revolving solely around romantic commitment, weddings are also deeply embedded within in a highly gendered consumer culture. Further, I am convinced that the wedding industry thrives on reinforcing (and sometimes creating!) women's insecurities about their appearance, which totally stinks.  (Don't worry, I'll save my lecture on the sexism and hetero-sexism of the traditional "institution" of marriage for my long-suffering students.)

Okay, getting back to American weddings and consumer culture: these two things are - in my humble opinion - married to each other (pun intended).  This is not news to anybody who has planned a wedding in the past few decades.  Personally, I have mixed feelings about my own role as a consumer-bride.  The penny-pinching bargain-reveller in me is thrilled by such an epic challenge, but I am simultaneously peeved and appalled by the seemingly unavoidable and ridiculous expenses involved in getting hitched in a relatively normal wedding. For context: I come from pragmatic stock. My always-grounded Minnesotan dad, upon hearing that my wedding dress was going to cost $700 (!!!), sputtered"Uff-da! That's before the 85% discount, right?  Whooee!"  Bless his heart.  (And bless my more-knowing-of-these-things mom for shushing him with raves about what a truly great deal it was!)  Now if only I'd managed to avoid buying that other dress... Uff-da, indeed!
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First wedding-industry-related plug:
The insanity-potential of wedding planning has gone so much further than my annoying body image woes, or a $700 dress of questionable bargain-worthiness.  Sadly, the bridal-hype has spurred a snarky cultural obsession with epic "bridezillas," to whom I refuse to provide links.  Happily, there is a massive-and-growing collection of books and websites (including mine, I hope!) devoted to helping the betrothed keep budgets and emotions in check throughout the process. My favorite of those in the latter group, thus far, has been this gorgeously sane and emotionally resonant website: (emphasis on the practical, and "APR" to those in the know!). 
From essays exploring issues of "Gender and Feminism" ... from the groom's perspective (I laughed), to memoirs of a wedding entangled with the greatest of losses (I cried), and inspiring reflections on body image (I fist-pumped), this website is rooted in "a lot of grounded smart-alecky women talking intelligently about their weddings and marriages" (as explained by founder Meg Keene).  It is totally up my alley, and I will someday beg Ms. Meg to post my own nuptial memoirs on her "Wedding Graduates" blog.  Highly recommended.

Okay - any other brides or former-brides out there?  If yes, I'd love to hear how you've managed to balance expenses/epic wedding dreams/sanity, etc..  Post your thoughts in comments here, or email me at mirror.mirror.OFF.the.wall [at]!

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  1. My wedding raked in at 6K. We saved a load on location by having it at a local city park $70. Then we chose to have an afternoon ceremony with a dessert reception. After lunch-before dinner. No meal. While our dessert reception was grandoise it was still mighty cheap compaired to a sit down dinner for 200 guests. Sign everyone and their mother up for your local hobby store's coupon mailer...

  2. There you can get flower petals, garland, glass center pieces, tealights, all sorts of goodies. I chose to do my invitations my self and got them at the hobby store they were marked $30 a box and save 40% with a coupon for 50 invites. There is quite a variety. I also have a knack for flower arranging and did all of our flowers, boutineers, corsages, and centerpieces using coupons. Also, most hobby stores will take competetor coupons.

  3. Don't be afraid to negotiate. If you are looking into a particular vendor research and see who their top competitor is. When talking to them about pricing happen to mention to them that you had also talked to their competitor (even if you haven't) about using their services. They may be more likely to negotiate a price just to get your business.

  4. I've been living on The ladies there are awesome, there is NO negative body talk, or talk of weightloss, etc, allowed, and it's a community to help coping with other people's reactions to doing whatever the hell you want.

    That said, it's hard to get away from the WIC. I find myself addicted to the idea of 1,200 chair rentals instead of the free ones.

  5. I'm just Not thinking about it yet. Also I'm not getting a "Real" wedding dress; I'm just getting a nice white Sundress. My budget is $1,000.

  6. My parents had three daughters to marry off. When the first one got engaged, they set up a bank account with $10,000 in it. (This was 35 years ago, it would be about $40K today). The first to get married got 1/3 of the account to spend as she wished. If she wanted a bigger, fancier wedding, she - or her groom - came up with the extra cash. If she wanted a low-key family affair as I did, she collected the surplus after wedding expenses as a cash gift. When the second daughter got married, she got 1/2 of the remaining balance, including the interest accrued in the intervening years. The remainder will all belong to the third daughter who hasn't yet married.
    There's an incentive to economize and pocket the savings, yet if one wants elements of a fairy tale wedding, she can have it. Even if she has to buy some of it herself.

  7. How did I have my dream wedding? By dreaming of having it at some family friends' house, who were generous enough to let me do so. We had talented friends make the food, take the photos, and act as on-the-day coordinator and sound-guy. We paid them all for their efforts, but it was much cheaper than using real vendors (for instance catering was 20% or less of what a real caterer would charge), and because our friends are truly talented, the quality was just as good. And our guests still got the full experience of being guests.

    The one area where I didn't get my cheap dream wedding - the dress. I always thought I'd just toodle over to Anthropologie and pick out something pretty, but my fiance originally wanted to wear a tux. If he was going to wear a tux, I couldn't show up in a sundress! But honestly, I'm so glad I did have the real, shockingly expensive dress: it was so much more beautiful than a regular dress would have been, and so me, and actually helped set the tone for our California-living and 50s-inspired theme.

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